Homeschooling in the teen years is IMPORTANT.
It can be hard, however, in the midst of shifting hormones, strained relationships, and the seemingly constant struggle for independence.
An essential element of homeschool high school success is reaching our child's heart. If we can win their heart and reach them in meaningful and lasting ways, our children will better respond to our homeschooling efforts.
How in the world can we teach our children if we don't first have a relationship with them?
It all boils down to relationship, and the key to relationship is the heart.
If we miss the heart, we're missing the most important thing.
Know How to Parent a Teen Effectively
Parenting teens in general (never mind homeschooling them!) is a job that requires continuing education.
The teen years are NOT the time to check out, delegate more of their education, or think your child can be on "auto-pilot". If anything, it is the time become MORE engaged and vigilant.
Our teens' brains are being hard-wired from the ages of 12-23, and what they do during these years MATTERS. Their values are in formation. They are deciding who and what they want to be.
The choices we make for and with them will last a lifetime.
Three things you can do for yourself as you travel this road:
Read/Listen to the Bible daily - I LOVE the Daily Audio Bible! How can I be open to what the Holy Spirit is saying to me about my teen if I'm not training myself to listen?
Spend time with a few good parenting books geared for parents of teens
Find a mentor who has graduated homeschoolers successfully - someone who can provide you support and guidance
Embrace Those Teens
No one told me how much FUN our teens would be.
I heard a lot of "enjoy them while they're little" and "good luck when they're teens".
My teens are genuinely interesting and enjoyable people to be around. We can debate with them, laugh with them, and be silly with them. They are capable of handling big ideas and shouldering more of the load around the house.
Sure, we get our share of attitudes and eye rolls, but my husband is quick to point out to me that if we respond with love and patience - and don't respond with lectures and demands - our lives will all be much easier. That runs counter to my "listen to me!" nature, but I'm learning it really is the best strategy when dealing with my teens.
I pray our home is a haven for our children - a place where they feel loved, accepted, and free to fail.
(Obviously, my teenage son feels very free to be himself - as evidenced in this picture!)
All those things you've heard? Well, they're true.
Hugs your teens a lot (even when you - or they - don't feel like it). Be willing to put your comfort aside (and sometimes your sleep) so you can talk with them late at night when they are just coming alive. Be willing to put up with some of their messes and disorganization (it goes with the territory).
Most of all, don't expect LESS of them because they are teens. Our teens are capable of so much more than SnapChat, Instagram, Netflix, YouTube, and texting their friends. Engage them in meaningful conversations on deep topics. Let them know what they think MATTERS.
Know Your Teen's Love Language
When my children were younger we took the love languages test online. Their love languages were Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. Now that they are both teens I had them take the test for teens - and things had changed a bit. My son went from Words of Affirmation to Gift Giving and my daughter stayed the same with Quality Time.
But once we know their love language, how do we put that into practice - especially when it might not match up with our own love language?
Teen Love Language Example #1:
For my youngest, his love language is Gift Giving. You might say - "I'm not going to buy my children things to show them I love them!" And yes, I agree. But let me share with you some things I do that seem to speak to my 13-year-old son:
- Jelly Beans! He loves to go to the Jelly Belly station at our grocery store and pick out jelly beans. It's kind of our thing. I do this every so often he treasures those jelly beans!
- Contributing to a Goal: My son recently saved some money to buy himself a Ripstick - he needed just a bit more, and I happily contributed the extra $10. We made an afternoon out of looking for the ripstick, and then I took an active interest in watching him learn and being available to go outside when he wants to show me his latest trick.
- Unexpected surprises: During our school day I will sometimes pull a small bag of M&Ms out of my purse and give them to my son during math. Or, I might take him out for half price milkshakes at Steak N' Shake in the middle of the afternoon.
The big point is this: when you know and address your teen's love language, you are showing your child you honor what is important to them.
You are willing to go outside of your own comfort zone and treat them. You are making an effort to sincerely show them what they like MATTERS!
It is against my nature to buy my child sweets - but it speaks to him and I don't go overboard. The investment in relationship is worth it!
Teen Love Language Example #2:
My daughter has long loved quality time. It's her thing. She thrives on a personal relationship.
I have seen firsthand that she will do MUCH better in school if she has a good relationship with the person who is teaching her. She has a radar for insincerity and will not hesitate to call a spade a spade - know what I mean?
The investment of TIME goes a long way with this child.
- Have a makeup date: I never wore much makeup until my daughter starting wearing makeup! She watches tutorials and has a talent for doing makeup well. She loves it when I suggest she do my makeup. How easy is that?
- Have a binge-watching date: We enjoy Downton Abbey - we've binge watched the series a few times. Setting aside this chunk of time, popping some popcorn, and hanging out with her in the basement is her love language!
- Reading time: I'm kind of being selfish on this one (ha!), but sometimes I will offer to make a cup of tea and just sit quietly and be together reading our own books. My daughter has drifted away from reading recently, but I can convince her to join me for tea and a book on occasion.
Put Your Pride Aside
In the first few years of parenting teens I felt I knew it all. My teenager needed to listen to me "just because".
I didn't tolerate disrespect. There was a lot of lecturing and many raised voices.
I used to get frustrated because my husband wouldn't join in with this behavior. He always seemed unphased by my oldest's misbehavior - or what I deemed as misbehavior. He wouldn't lecture or get upset - he simply showed patience and a sense of calm that completely mystified me.
Looking back, and also having read some great parenting books, I can now see that ignoring and showing grace through not getting angry with my teen goes A LONG way.
I had to lay my pride aside and discover there was a much gentler and more effective way to parent my teen. Patience and grace have become my two favorite words.
Our house is much calmer now. Yes, we still have our moments of teen angst and drama, but the way in which I respond is much different. The way those situations are resolved is much different. My relationship with my teens is different.
I look at these children and think "it all goes by in the blink of an eye". I'm so thankful for the opportunity to homeschool them for a front row seat!